The country's denim cloth and apparel makers, who mostly produce low value products at present, are now going for higher technologies with an aim to increase their goods quality and value addition.
With the latest technologies, which are also believed to reduce production costs by at least 30%, the exporters are dreaming of becoming leaders in the global high value denim market.
Take Envoy Textiles for example. The world's first LEED platinum-certified denim manufacturing has recently signed a know-how transfer and collaboration agreement with Spanish company Jeanologia, under which Envoy will set up a state-of-the-art laboratory.
The eco-efficient lab facility will cost Envoy Textiles 270,000 euros (some Tk2.62 crore) for every 12 months, according to the company disclosure.
"Although it is an expensive move, it will help us produce sustainable products at lower costs," Envoy Textiles Chairman Kutubuddin Ahmed told The Business Standard.
"Buyers are now looking for sustainable denim and considering the demand we are going to set up the lab, which will be the first of its kind at commercial level across the world."
He also added that global consumers are ready to pay a higher price for sustainable goods.
Industry insiders said the latest technologies help them make sophisticated wash, reduce usages of water and chemicals which ultimately make denim goods environmentally-friendlier.
Pacific Jeans Managing Director Syed Mohammad Tanvir said they are also using the latest technologies. "Being the largest denim garment maker, it is the opportunity to get every prototype version from the world's renowned denim technology providers".
As a high-value products buying company, Dutch fashion brand G-Star RAW sources about 1 million pieces of jeans, which are worth about $20 million, from Bangladesh in a year, said its Regional Operations Manager Shafiur Rahman.
"Bangladesh has a huge opportunity to grow more in the denim market, as the country mostly produces low value jeans yet," he told TBS.
Genesis Denim is the only Bangladeshi denim exporter working with the Dutch fashion brand for the last 10 years. Its Managing Director Munir Ahmed shared their experience of producing high value goods with The Business Standard.
"Our beginning was very tough, as the brand requirements were very complicated in terms of styles, wash, chemical usages," he said, adding that they adopted some sophisticated technologies to meet the buyer's demand.
"We took about seven days to make a pair of pants at the very beginning. Now we know the brand taste and fashion aesthetics."
Munir Ahmed said G-Star RAW pays them up to $35 for a pair of denim pants, while low value denim exporters get $6 for that on an average.
Quality denim export began with Pacific Jeans
The quality denim exporting journey of Bangladesh was started by the late Nasir uddin, founder of Pacific Jeans, a Chattogram EPZ-based exporter.
In 1984, its small garment factory named NZN Fashionwear started manufacturing denim pants, but there was no washing plant in the country then. They had to do laundry in Italy. A year later, they set up a washing plant in the country with the technical support from their Italian buyer.
Investment in local fabric productions
Considering the demand of denim fabrics for export market, Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, a second-generation entrepreneur in the textiles sector, established Shasha Denims in 1998 to produce denim fabrics particularly for exporter-oriented industries, using Swiss-German company Beninger's technology.
Before the inception of the company, two other denim fabric manufacturers – Bengal Indigo and Beximco – were operating in the country but making fabrics for the local market.
In 2008, Envoy Textiles started commercial operation as the first denim facility in Bangladesh to use Rope Dyed Technology.
Strong backward linkage helps grow further
Thanks to strong local backward linkage, Bangladesh denim jeans have captured the leading position in the global market.
Despite the ongoing economic slowdown, denim jeans have maintained its growth, according to industry people.
"When the economic situation will be better, buyers should come to Bangladesh with more orders, as they have no alternative to buy denim with a more lucrative price, in a shorter lead time", said Kutubuddin Ahmed, chairman of Envoy textiles.
Market yet untapped
Denim exporters have a scope to have high value additions with quality wash, but most Bangladeshi suppliers are yet to untap the potential.
Annata Apparels Managing Director Sharif Zahir said buyers are not coming to Bangladesh for high value denim pants due mainly to prolonged lead time.
"Most of our denim makers are producing low to mid segment jeans. Those who are producing high value jeans have to import the fabrics from Turkey, China and Pakistan," he added.